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Unionists table fresh motion on Raymond McCreesh Park

Unionist councillors have tabled an urgent notice of motion calling for the removal of Raymond McCreesh from the title of a play park in Newry.  The motion is set to go before the full meeting of council tonight (Monday 9th April) after the deadline of March 29th for Council to gift the park to the neighbouring Ballybot community was missed. 

The motion states “that this Council removes the name Raymond McCreesh from the Newry, Mourne and Down Council play facility presently of that name” and has been signed by councillors Henry Reilly, David Taylor, William Walker, Jill Macauley, Garth Craig, Glyn Hanna, Robert Burgess and Harry Harvey.

In December, Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted to leave the name on the Patrick Street play park until a review of Council playgrounds was carried out this year, which would transfer ownership from the Council to the Ballybot community, effectively relieving the Council of the naming debacle.  The proposal to transfer ownership was to be implemented by March 29th but with the deadline missed, unionist councillors have tabled a fresh motion demanding the name change. 

Independent unionist councillor Henry Reilly said they were left with no other option than to bring forward the new motion after “new revelations” – which he would not disclose – emerged at a recent Equality and Good Relations Committee meeting.   Speaking to the Newry Reporter, Mr Reilly claimed it was only when republican memorials are endorsed by local government “that it becomes a difficulty for the unionist community.”

Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady underlined that the Council had been found to have acted correctly in respecting the democratic wishes of the community when the naming issue was brought before several Equality Commission and legal processes. 

“That view was endorsed by Council and received no complaints or objections until 2007 when the local Orange Order made an issue of Raymond’s name,” said Mr Brady.

“The Ballybot community has been demonised for more than 10 years by unionist politicians and commentators for honouring those that took part in the struggle for freedom in Ireland.”  

The Sinn Fein MP added that other public spaces in Newry bore the name of those from a British and Unionist tradition without objections from local communities.  Accusing unionist councillors of attempting to “stir community tensions”, the Newry and Armagh representative appealed to the Council to respect the view of the “overwhelming majority” of Ballybot residents who wish to retain the Raymond McCreesh name. 

SDLP councillor, Michael Savage, said the proposal to transfer ownership of the park to the local community had been suggested by an independent consultant, council directors and legal advice. He said his party was not interested in “political point scoring through tabling motions or erecting banners on such a sensitive issue” and claimed that the politicising of the issue “only serves to open the wounds of the past, wounds that we all have a duty to repair.”   

He added that the decision taken in December was to “deal with the issue appropriately without allowing the issue to descend into a political farce with two extremes pulling strips off each other.”